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Local spoken word artist takes on police brutality in new video

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A few days ago The Independent got an email from a local spoken word artist who thought our readers might be interested in his latest piece. We watched Timo Sargent’s video for “Bruised & Bloodied Sirens”, a powerful and vivid commentary on police brutality and the widespread abuse of power in our society, and thought, yeah, this is exactly the kind of art we want to spread the word about.

First, watch the video [Warning: Contains some explicit—and lots of amazing—lyrics], and then read the email interview we did with Timo Sargent.

“Bruised & Bloodied Sirens” by Timo Sargent / TNT Creation

JUSTIN BRAKE: Where do you live, and where are you from?

TIMO SARGENT: I was originally born in St. John’s, but my family moved to British Columbia when I was very young, so that’s where I grew up. Intermittent trips back as a kid (seemingly always in the summer during record-breaking periods of great weather), the allure of an adventure in the place I considered another home, and an opportunity to play basketball at MUN, brought me here for university.

JUSTIN BRAKE: How long have you been doing spoken word? What’s your artistic background?

TIMO SARGENT: I was introduced to it two years ago, and gravitated towards it as another outlet for writing! Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved creating and using my imagination, and the first way I was shown for communicating my ideas was through writing. It’s something I can’t live without, and I feed this passion through writing manuscripts, short stories, screenplays, and recently rapping (my roommates and I, all avid music lovers, started an experimental rap group — “Monchy is a Monarchy” — and ended up doing a show at the Breezeway and a show at Allure). As well I’m (slowly) learning musical production, and I’ve been creating videos as a hobby for many years.

JUSTIN BRAKE: Why did you write, recite and film this piece, “Bruised & Bloodied Sirens”? (And is there anyone who helped you with this you’d like to give a shout-out to?)

TIMO SARGENT: I wrote it when I should have been studying for exams, but instead was watching clips from the seemingly never-ending stream of videos which depict cops acting with horrifying malice towards people who are terrified of defending themselves because they know the ramifications it might bring. That sickly feeling we get while seeing injustice, and the subsequent furious desire we have to see oppressive behaviour stopped, really inspired me.

I started writing it then, and got stuck, then while I was walking home after a night which should have featured far more exam preparation, an RNC car crossed the road towards me, and instantly my heart started pounding in my ears and I thought about how my hood was up, and the bag I was holding might look suspicious — but the officer simply wanted to ask me if I’d seen two people in the area (I’ve been receiving many accusations that I’m depicting the RNC as a murderous lot — which is not at all what I’m doing — so I’d like to point out that the officer acted in a very professional manner).

 I’m a firm believer in creating art that generates discussion about important issues and advocates for positive change.

When I was coming down from that scare, I thought extensively about how any incident that subjugates one person and infringes on their rights — and goes unchecked — consequently increases the ability for powerful people to abuse their power. Certainly not groundbreaking, I know, but it’s what I was thinking, and it scared me.

Finally, I talked to my close friend D’avontai, who has seen police brutality first hand, and he said something that really outlined the helplessness you feel in those situations: “There’s nothing you can do.” That conversation provided the inspiration to finish the piece, and I decided to turn it into a video, because I’m a firm believer in creating art that generates discussion about important issues and advocates for positive change.

I definitely need to give credit to my awesome girlfriend Doruntina, who graciously braved the cold (with many jackets/sweaters/blankets) to help film, and to my good friend Marcus Maddalena who produced the backing instrumental. He’s a great guy and a wildly talented musician, who I try to convince, with a (probably) annoying frequency, to aggressively pursue a career in music.

Also, my brother, the other half of TNT Creation — Tim Unaegbu — deserves a lot of credit. I learned how to edit and put a video together from working with him this past summer in B.C., which was invaluable when I was editing and putting together this video, and he always offers support and constructive criticism (and interrogates me about how long until I’ll be back on the west side of Canada).

JUSTIN BRAKE: In the piece you reference the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson. There has been a lot of police brutality caught on tape in the U.S. lately, more so than in Canada, it seems. Why do you think we should care about poilice violence and brutality in Canada, and specifically here in Newfoundland and Labrador?

TIMO SARGENT: We need to care about it because, like I said above, when people we assign authority and power to use it to try and dominate us, it is our duty to ensure that they are held accountable. Saying, “That’s not my problem, that’s Ferguson’s problem,” is not that different from the notions we believed about terrorism: “That’s an American problem, it’ll never happen in Canada.”

We can’t wait to recognize problems until they happen to us, and we can’t deny problems exist simply because of a lack of high-profile cases. Regarding high-profile cases, I can think of the Robert Dziekanski situation out west, Sammy Yatim in Toronto, and recently the Dunphy case in Newfoundland — just as examples for people who think Canada is devoid of these problems. Even in the recent Senate scandals, we see officials taking advantage of the influence we grant them. The more we tackle oppressive, power-abusing behaviour, and display how absolutely unacceptable we find it, the more we create an atmosphere where decision-makers will not allow it.

JUSTIN BRAKE: Do you perform live, or get together with other artists to collaborate? How can people keep up to date on what you’re working on?

TIMO SARGENT: I’ve attended the last few spoken word/poetry nights at The Ship Pub, which is always awesome. Lots of wildly talented people, and the organizers, and everyone who attends, are so welcoming and great at making you feel at ease. I was asked to be the featured reader for their June show, but I’ll be back in B.C. — so it’ll be happening in the fall when I return for the fall semester.

I collaborate with Tim Unaegbu as TNT Creation, through which we produce entertaining videos with one genre we are interested in being socially conscious spoken word videos. You can follow our TNT Creation Facebook page TNT Creation Videos, and you should definitely subscribe to our TNT Creation YouTube channel, because we’ve both been working on our skills individually through fall and winter and we’ll be taking things to the next level once we reunite in a few weeks back in B.C.

Also, I just started Glimpses and Breaths with photographing fiend Elbonita Kozhani, in order to spread natural beauty, and messages of inspiration and positivity, through her gorgeous photos of Newfoundland (and New York, and Australia, and wherever she’s just returned from) and my spoken word videos. Her work is dazzling, and it seems she’s either taking photos, planning an excursion to do so, or studying how to improve at photography. So definitely check that out. Also, I finished some videos over the past few months — featuring more personally-inspired spoken word — that I’ll be putting up on that site over the next couple weeks.

As well, my roommates and I put out an EP of “anthems for 24-hours dreamers” as Monchy is a Monarchy, featuring music by Marcus Maddalena, which you can stream or download for free at monchyisamonarchy.bandcamp.com. And we have a video for one of the songs off the EP up on the TNT Creation YouTube channel, featuring footage from MUN campus and our performance at Allure.

Outside of that, I’m always looking to work and learn from passionate and hard-working people!

JUSTIN BRAKE: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

TIMO SARGENT: I just want to thank everyone who has supported the video! You are all lovely, and your kind words and encouragement help more than you know. And I just want to clarify again, for people who believe this video is condemning all police officers, the focus is squarely on institutionalized problems that create oppression, and police who act in an illegal manner.

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